So, let’s do the background bit first! Late last year I decided to get a running coach. The reason for this was because I wanted to improve my running and I was already looking at the races I wanted to complete in 2016, the main aim of my races was to ultimately qualify to enter the 6ft Track Marathon in 2017.
Then, a fellow RMA who I will name and shame here called Kath and her 2 partners in crime (the 2 Mels!) gave me that extra nudge to enter the Triple Trail Challenge, 3 trail runs consisting of the Jubulani 22km, Rafferty’s Coastal Run and the Coastal Classic. The last 2 of which are 6ft qualifiers, and the first one I wanted to do again having done it earlier in 2015.
Having missed out on qualifying in UTA50 this year (I finished in 9 hours 30 and the qualifying was 9 hours) I was looking to Rafferty’s to get my qualifying time. Great! I won’t hit my slump after UTA like I did last year as I will still be coached and continue to train for Rafferty’s!… Wrong! I hit the slump, Again! Then got sick, then work got busy and before I knew it my training had been sporadic to say the least, and Rafferty’s was just around the corner!
That’s when the self doubt crept in – “I’m not good enough”, I’m not going to get the qualifying time”, “People don’t think I’m a good runner”, “I may as well look at some other races to get my qualifier”. Even the week leading up to Rafferty’s I looked at downgrading! But thanks to Kath and the 2 Mels there was no chance of that as I couldn’t complete the triple challenge!
Then I got some sound last minute advice from my coach and some great support from fellow RMAs (in particular Jaime Philp) which helped me to finally get rid of all those negative thoughts and purely focus on completing Rafferty’s. So with that in mind I got my game face on, went through my normal pre race rituals and headed to that start line. My response when someone asked me what time I wanted to finish the race in I said, “I want to be finished in 5 hours!” Yes I actually said that out loud! (FYI – 5 hours 20 is the qualifying time for 6ft in Rafferty’s).
So the race started – I got into my groove, there were moments when the self doubt crept in, in the first 10km I got overtaken by lots of people and then I was all alone on the trail. Was I losing time? Am I going the right way? So I checked my time – still on track. Then I saw a pink ribbon – still on course! Keep going Rita! You’re fine!
Then the leaders started coming back towards me (there’s an out and back section) so that made me question myself again – I wonder where I am in relation to the race? How long will it take me to do the out and back? Another watch check – still on target! Keep going Rita!
I run conservatively, I don’t go out hard and hope for the best, I walk the uphill and jog/run the flats (I try to use them as recovery when I can), I hit the downhills when I can though. Then by the 20km mark I started ‘fishing’. I learnt this from Kelly-Anne Varey. Basically it means you start to aim to catch up and overtake people. You throw out your line and you reel the fish/people in – get it? This worked a treat , I got to 25km and looked at my time, I knew from experience that I need to allow for an extra couple of kms so I knew it would be more than 35kms (the wonders of trail running!) so estimated my finish time to be around the 4:40-4:50 mark (providing the rest of the course wasn’t challenging). I smiled a little bit because there was no reason why I couldn’t get my qualifying time!
Now was so important to stick to my race plan, still take my nutrition regularly (I also made sure I took a couple of bites of banana at every aid station), take my salt tablet every hour (I’m a big sweater and suffer from cramps), still walk the up hills and run the ‘runnables’ and think of my coach – one of the last messages he sent was to say that I have got this!
Every kilometre I hit I relaxed in my mind more, I remember hitting 33km knowing I was going to get my qualifier, but knowing I’ve probably got more than 2kms to go. I hit 35km and yes! I was still on the course! 36km and I was still out there but the end was in sight! I hit the ground running! Literally! I was back on bitumen and heading to the finish line! And there it was! People were yelling my name! I threw my arms in the air! Kath and the 2 Mels were there to give me the biggest hug! I broke down in tears in their arms! Finally! I had done it! The hard work had paid off! See you next year 6ft (now to get that entry in!). My finishing time? 4 hours 55! See? 5 hours I was done!